By Wallace H. Little
Among God’s people today, one of the many issues needlessly dividing brethren might be identified by what is represented in the title. To some who are pushing their opinions to the level of law, “segmented worship” describes congregations which allow brethren to partake of the Lord’s Supper either during the morning assembly, or the one at evening, depending upon their ability to get to the one or the other. Cecil Willis has written that every error among brethren has started from overemphasizing some point of truth. This situation bears out his statement.
There is little doubt some have abused the fact they had opportunity to take the Lord’s Supper during evening assembly as an excuse for their sin of failing to assemble at all times. My comments here are in no way to serve this group. But the fact something is abused does not make the thing itself sinful; only the abuse is wrong.
I had a tract written by a brother in Christ who went to some length to demonstrate the sinfulness (?) of allowing the Lord’s Supper to be offered during Sunday evening assemblies after it was also offered during morning worship. The main thrust of his argument was that such constituted what he termed “segmented worship” and the New Testament is silent on authority for any such thing. To his credit, he is consistent. He has persuaded the congregation where he worshiped to disband Sunday evening assemblies. But his consistency extracted quite a price from the other brethren there, in loss of edification they could have during evening worship.
His claim of segmented worship demands a little more examination, from a viewpoint he neglected in his tract. I would like to see some evidence from the Bible that having two or more periods during the Lord’s Day when we obey Christ in the things He has commanded for public worship constitutes “segmented worship.” This is not contained within God’s Word; it is not speaking as God’s oracles (1 Pet. 4:11); it is the language of Ashdod (Neh. 13:24).
Historically, God’s people established a pattern quite different from that which we use today. The early church met in extended assemblies (note Acts 20:7, where Paul preached until midnight, then continued on to the break of day – see verse 11). Assemblies then were apt to be lengthy proceedings, rather than the one hour we meet today on the Lord’s Day morning for worship. Likewise, during the restoration period and on down well into the Twentieth Century, assemblies were likely to extend over three and four hour periods, often broken at noon when brethren either ate food they brought with them on the grounds on good days, or in the buildings when the weather was poor.
Our so-called “segmented worship” (referring to the fact we break around noon, then return during the evening) is nothing but a concession to our taste permitted by the better means of transportation we have. It is no real difficulty now for a family to drive ten to fifteen miles to the building, attend Bible class and worship, then drive the same distance back home for dinner; later during the evening, make the return trip for another hour of worship. Such a practice was unheard of however, until the near-universal availability of automobiles among brethren.
I am not trying to prove anything by the practices of brethren. The New Testament is our only standard. But these practices do indicate what brethren for years and centuries understood the Bible to teach; we know their beliefs by their practices.
Now let us go back to the Bible and see if this so called “segmented worship” is all that bad. I will not quote from the entire text, but you read it all: Luke, in Acts 20:7-11, wrote, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight . . . When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.” If Biblical authority for “segmented worship” is desired, consider this, and Acts 2:46 where the strong implication is of the same thing.
And let us stop this senseless, destroying argument!
Truth Magazine, XX:14, p. 13-14
April 1, 1976